Wednesday, December 30, 2015


It's drab outside. The snow covers everything and the overcast sky makes the world look like a black and white movie. I feel drab inside. If you struggle like I do with chronic depression, you know winter can be hard. It's easy to get caught in a pit of despair.

There is help. Find something you can enjoy. Find quiet spaces for yourself. Read and pray. Take care of yourself. Let people help you, let them care about you. Talk to your doctor and a counselor.

I wish there was a magical cure. I've tried a lot of things and I continue to struggle. I'm weak and I make giant mistakes. I hurt myself, I hurt others. I am in constant need of forgiveness. I need God to touch me every day.

If things are drab for you, if you feel empty and alone, hang in there. The sun will be back out and the snow will be gone. We just need to hold out a little while longer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An Open Letter to the Cat

Dear Little Cat,
     You have been with us a couple of years now, so I thought you would understand by now, but I want to explain how things work. You see, you are not really performing in a satisfactory manor in the house and I want to share a few thoughts with you, help you step up your game. I was hoping the big cat and the dog would help you out, but you haven't seem to connect with them in healthy ways. The big cat hates you, the dog just ignores you now, until you attack him and then he engages you shortly. You then become snobbish and ignore the dog for months. Since you refuse to listen to them, let me run a few things by you.

First, we don't live on a farm and we don't keep stored grain outside the house. There is no real need for you to catch and kill every mouse, bird, baby rabbit around the property. They are fine outside, and we prefer for them to stay outside. The fact that you have brought in a few creatures and released them alive in the house is contrary to your function. We would like you to get rid of pests in the house, not reintroduce new ones. I know you many find it exciting to have wildlife inside to chase, but we prefer this to not be the case. We appreciate the bat that you caught, but leaving him to hide under the couch wasn't really a completed job. In the future, we can handle the bats, please leave the mice outside.

In addition, any small animals in the house that exist inside cages and enclosures were put there on purpose. We haven't had any hamsters since you came to live with us, mainly because you view them as your entertainment. They are not snacks or treats, and we would ask you please respect them as pets and not as fast food. In addition, the fish tank is not your water bowl and the fish is not there for you to taste and sample. He has been here longer than you, and we ask that you respect his place as a member of the family. He would also appreciate it if you stop slobbering in his filter.

As far as your interaction with the humans in the house, that leads me to my main point. There are several things you are doing which we would like you to stop and some things you won't do that would be nice if you could start. First off, 3:00 am is not the designated time for us to awake. Walking all around the house meowing as loud as you can until someone lets you out is not appreciated. Wanting back in 20 minutes later is also not appreciated. We will be up in the morning, the dog will want out and you can join him then. In fact, this is usually when you go out of the 2nd or 3rd time in the morning. If you could, please just wait until then.

Also, drinking from the fish tank loudly right after all the lights are turned off is frowned upon. Also, knocking all the items off the dresser or table, climbing in the window sill and climbing the clothes to get in the closet to knock everything down is also not appreciated, especially in the middle of the night. Any action that is loud and obnoxious after the lights are out are ill advised.

We wanted to talk to you a little about the food situation. There is special food we purchase for you, it's called cat food. It's in the cat food bowl on the cat house. This is your area to climb, scratch and eat your food. Getting in the sink to lick the dishes is not necessary, we can wash them, thank you. Getting on the table to get to the left overs is also not necessary. We are also able to wash the table, knocking over every glass of water is not really that helpful. It's the same water that is in your bowl and in the fish tank, there is no reason to drink it off the table after you knock it over. Also, the food on the bowl on the floor is for the dog. It's called dog food, and it's not for you. We are not sure why you eat it.

Lastly, you only have one role as a pet in this house. We don't need a mouser, we don't need an alarm clock or a table washer. We are ok with you eating cat food and using the litter box, we understand those are necessities. The eating until you are full and drinking water until you vomit is not appreciated, if you could do that outside it would be helpful. All we ask of you is to do the things the other pets do. Currently, the dog is laying beside me and the cat is laying on the other side. They enjoy the company of the humans, being pet and scratched. They interact with us ways that express love. The emotion that you express is often frustration, anger and resentment. The angry tone of meow that we receive when you are touched or held is not necessary. We do appreciate the few, occasional times that you have been an actual pet and shown some affection, but those times are rare, few and far between. The children really seem to love you, I can't understand why because you show them nothing but disdain. Please make more of an effort in this area, since as a house pet this is your one and only function.

As a family, we have committed to you, we feed you and house you and get you medical care. We have done our best to take care of you, and while we appreciate the occasion gift of dead or marginally alive vermin, that is not needed. What we would prefer is some affection and the ceasing of all the noted behaviors above. If any behavior is in question, if someone yells your name or simply screams "CAT", that is a good indication that behavior is not wanted. I understand you will not be reading this because while there is internet access in the house and access to the technology to find this, you are of course a cat and cannot read. You have been told most of these things, and it's clear that you don't understand.  All that aside, if you could read and did understand, being that you are a cat, one thing is clear. You simply would not care.

Everyone Else in the House

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Maybe Some Common Sense Gun Laws

With the number of shootings lately, there is lots and lots of talk about gun laws and reform.  These range from no laws and registration to no guns of any type. Seems to be a lot of saber rattling, lots of rhetoric and lots and lots and lots of stats being thrown around. In reality, we have a lot of mass shootings lately so maybe we need to talk common sense and figure out something that can be done. Maybe we need to talk apart from the election cycle and political maneuvering.

First, let's state the obvious. If someone wants a gun and they are willing to break the law, they are going to get it. You can quote the reality of England and Australia, but they don't have the illegal immigration problem that we do and the Mexican Drug Cartel as a neighbor. There are some ways we can't compare us to the UK, because we have a different set of issues.  Illegal guns come into this country. The 17 year old gang kids aren't buying their guns legally now are they. The guns are smuggled with the drugs. Making them illegal will make them bigger business for the cartels.

Criminals can still get guns, but at least we should make it more difficult, right? What about the law abiding citizen, should they be able to get guns? If they do, what kinds of guns?  Let's start with sports rifles, should hunting remain legal? As a hunter and as a wildlife tech, I can tell you that hunting is critical to conservation and needs to remain as part of our society for many reasons. Rifles are occasionally used in crimes, but most mass shootings don't involve a 30-06 or a .308. Perhaps registration for these weapons is needed, but for the most part, it's not called for. What about shotguns? Pump action shotguns are illegal in UK, but they are used by most bird hunters. I myself use a 12 gauge pump for duck and goose and pheasant and dove and turkey. Perhaps the length requirement that already exists is wiser, since sawed off shotguns are not really used for hunting.

This is where things get tricky is the non-sporting weapons. Handguns, semi auto, assault rifle and the like. There is a major conflict over these weapons and for good reason. They are not used so much in the taking of game, but in the taking of human life. Some of that is for protection and defense against those who would use it for destruction. What are we to do? If you take away the right of free citizens to carry and own guns, you are opening a can of worms that can have serious consequences, but not guaranteed. The 2nd amendment gives us the ability to defend ourselves from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Remember, this country has already had one Civil War, there is nothing to say there will not be a second. Invasion is a reality, we can have a foreign enemy invade, the reason that Japan didn't invade the US, allegedly is the fear of the number of weapons held by the American people.

Where is the line drawn? When it comes to hand guns, there is background checks and waiting periods. To go further, permits are required for most states to concealed carry, and some to open carry. To get a fully auto, you must have a dealer's license or be part of the US Armed Forces. Many states require a hunter's safety class to carry a fire arm for hunting, and everyone has age limits. So what more can be done?

I honestly don't know, and I think we can put the focus on the guns but that won't change much. We live in a hostile world and things are getting worse. There are not more guns today than there use to be, and the price of things goes up. Ammunition has more restrictions and the price is rising quickly. Outright banning of certain guns may help in the short term, and we can see stats that may support that, but things will change. As our enemy continues to come into our borders, we are going to see more of this issue. We are having problems these days with police shootings on top of everything, and I'm not sure taking guns away from police is going to do much to help the situation.

It seems clear to me that we have less of a gun issue and more of a conflict issue. Maybe we need to deal with the root of the issue instead of trying to take the guns away. I wish I knew the answer, but I don't think it's going to be a quick and simple fix.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Real Problem with Socialist Politics (Bernie Sanders)

We have an upcoming Presidental Race, and unless you've been under a rock you have probably heard for Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a Socialist and wants to redistribute wealth and create social equality. The ideal form of this is what we see in Star Trek, were money and wealth are no longer necessary, where needs are provided for every person. As a result, socialism assumes that if people don't need to worry about the basics like food, shelter, safety and medical care, they will turn their energy to furthering society. It's assumed that if we don't need to use our energy for self-preservation, we can use our energy to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilization.  Sounds good, right?

Here is the issue, socialism assumes we are basically good at the core and care about society. Guess what, we don't. How do I know? Millions of homeless vets, we want to government to take care of them, but no one is giving up their house (very few people anyway). People are not giving them food, clothing or shelter, so we are asking our government too. There is a huge battle raging over Syrian refuges, if the government should give them shelter. I don't see people crawling over each other to give their stuff for their needs.

The reality is people are selfish. We are self centered and we want for us. If we have want we want, we lose our motivation. We work for a pay check, if you take away the pay check, we stop working and we do things we enjoy. Yes, some volunteer and help out here and there, but the line for those wanting to get is far longer than those who are wanting to give.

Want more proof?  How much food do we throw away each day? All that food that could be used to food the starving. They don't have the resources to pay for it, but many of us do, so we get it. Farmers sell it to us, because they take the money to pay for their stuff. They pay for their stuff from others who supply what they want. The poor, they are the people who don't have anything we want or need, so they don't have any. Stop using your money for anything but bare necessities and use the extra money to buy stuff for the poor. No more movies or TV or books, just pay for food, shelter, clothing and what you need to live. Take the rest of your money and buy food and shelter for the poor. Don't want too? We are selfish.

The Biblical word for this is sin. We are sinful and selfish. To assume that humanity will take care of each other is a pipe dream. If it worked, we would do it without the government telling us we have too.  Let's be real people, we are selfish and self serving. That is why we need Jesus and not Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Foundations Study Bible. Yes, I Got Another Bible

If you know much about me, you know I'm a Bible junkie. I love them, buy them, read them and use them for study. In finishing up a sermon I preached on Sunday, I had 6 Bibles and a commentary, that was to finish the message that was mostly written. I use multiple translations, notes, helps and references. I love Bibles, and I got a new one, so let me tell you about it.

The Foundations Study Bible from Thomas Nelson. It's a nice hardback, good looking Bible. The layout is good, and it's pretty usable. The version I have is NKJV, which is a good translation, great for OT text. It's a pretty decent Bible, but I don't think it's in my top 10 when it comes to the study material.  It's called the Foundation Study Bible, it could be called "Stuff you can probably figure out with a few things thrown in that may be helpful, but good if you are new to this Bible reading thing" study bible. Ok, that might be a bit unfair, and there are good notes and good information. If you are wanting to get depth of study, this isn't it. If you want lots of good notes, then look elsewhere. If you want to get a Bible for someone who is new to the faith and has some basic questions, this one would be ok.

It's hard to go wrong when buying a study Bible from Thomas Nelson, and this one would be helpful to some young believers. If you are in the market for a Bible that hits the basics of the faith, check this one out. Solid study without the devotional material that doesn't really belong in a Study Bible.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Bald Prophet and The Angry Bears

I want to look at an interesting passage today and tie it into where we seem to be in our country and world. The passage is one that isn’t preached or discussed too often about Elisha, some young men and a could of sow (female) bears.  Let’s look at the passage.

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord . And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
2 Kings 2:23-24 ESV

From a quick reading it appears we have some kids making fun of a bald guy who gets mad and God sends out a couple of bears to maul the kids.  Doesn’t seem right,  does it.  After all, shouldn’t we turn the other cheek? Let’s unpack more, and remember our context. This is Israel,  God’s chosen nation and He has given them the law of how to respect Him and His prophets.  These kids were probably more young men,  late teens or early 20s. Since from the story there are 42 mauled,  it seems this was a pretty large group.

They were not so much teasing Elisha for being bald,  but they were rejecting him,  his office and his messages. Telling him to go up was probably referring to the situation his mentor,  Elijah had when he was taken up by the chariot of fire.  These weren’t kids teasing an old bald man,  these were the young men of Israel rejecting a Prophet and ultimately God.
They scorn God’s commands that once came from the prophets and now comes from the scripture. They rejected the truth and didn’t want to listen to anything Elisha said. We sound like that in our culture, rejecting what is being taught in the Bible and embracing whatever winds of change we want. When I say we, please understand who I’m talking about. I am not talking about our country, but our churches. Those people who God has called,  just like He set Israel apart,  the church is those who have been called out by God.

The church has thrown out God’s word in lots of places. We run the church by group vote instead of God’s word. We give seats of honor to the wealthy, we abuse those who aren’t as affluent. We condemn some sin while turning a blind eye to other sin. We play church on Sunday but show no change during the rest of the week. It’s true we struggle with sin,  but that’s not the issue as much as we ignore the sin,  justify the sin and even celebrate the sin. We ignore the parts of the scripture we don’t like,  can’t really get excited about and don’t want to tell people. We ignore things in the community because we are afraid of the backlash, so we just ignore that part of the scripture.

I’m not calling out anyone or any church in particular,  just sharing something I know is even true in my life. Enjoying the things I know I should reject and pretending like it’s ok.  In the end,  I am rejecting God and His Word. It’s only by His mercy that a bear hasn’t shown up at my front door.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

No Sheep Left Behind

In the US Marie Corps they have a motto.  No Man Left Behind. If a man is wounded in battle,  the other men in his platoon will make sure to get him out. Saving the life of another is honorable,  but for the Marines,  it’s part of their nature,  it’s who they are. It’s mine that maybe the church learn from this lesson.

As a leader,  my job is to lead others. Church leaders somehow have forgotten that,  we are made the goal to grow, to build and to progress. We have bigger stuff, better ministries and a longer reach. Those things are great,  but they are not the goal. The goal isn’t to have 50% or 75% of the sheep make it into the sheep fold.  The goal is to get all 100 sheep.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep.  A shepherd had 100 sheep,  and all but one made it to the pen. Instead of saying “I got 99% of the sheep”,  he goes out to find the one that is missing.  He searches all night to find the lost sheep,  and when he does,  he rejoices. He rejoices over the 1% who is problematic and wanders off. He rejoices over the 1% who didn’t listen,  was stubborn and didn’t stay with the rest of the flock. He rejoiced over the problem sheep.

Do we rejoice over the church member who complains and gripes?  Do we celebrate the youth who disrupts every activity and lesson? Do we go and search for the church member who never agreed with the direction and stops coming? It sure is a blessing that God doesn’t deal with us like we deal with people in our church. Imagine if God lost His patience with you when you argued,  fussed,  whined or complained.

Are we willing to slow down our plans and our vision to make sure everyone gets to come along? Are we going to slow down the time line, stop to go look for the one and go off to bring that one along? Will we refuse to leave no sheep behind?

May we all follow the example of the Good Shepherd and go after the lost sheep.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Reflections on the Occasion of my 39th Birthday

I'm 39 today. I have 365 days left to be in my 30s before I turn 40. It's been a great decade and a not so great decade. I got my master's degree, we had my youngest, moved half way across the country, got and lost the job I always wanted. I learned a lot of new things, like how to make soy protein isolate and I'm currently learning how to bat proof a house. Had some surgeries, wrote a lot of stuff and had a roller coaster of a time. I have one more year of my 30s, I guess I should make it count.

I never imagined this is where I would be at the verge of 40. I assumed I would be teaching in a church someplace, or in a school or both. I never imagined I would be a wildlife tech. Maybe I would be planting a church, but I'm happy I am working with a new church plant. I thought I may have a book published, hoping that still happens before I'm 40. The thing I put on Kindle doesn't count. Still, I think things are going ok as I move towards midlife.

I have some regrets and some heartache. There are things I wish for and hope for and long for. I'm not in the career that I want, and not where I wanted to be, but I know God is sovereign. It might be that I will never really do much of significance in my life, but it will be significant in the Kingdom. No one will really know or care much of who I am or what I do, but that's ok.  In the same way, if I do something that changes the world for the better and advances the kingdom, I am open and excited for that too.

Here is to 39, to the grey hair, teenage kids, creaky knee and sore back. Here is a couple of degrees that are doing me little to no good, and the bills that come with them I still have to pay. Here is too the short weekends, long weeks, unanswered questions and unfulfilled dreams. More than that, here is too a year full of God's grace and mercy for me, to looking for Him for my sense of worth and my joy and peace. I don't know what this year will hold, but I'm excited to find out. Thanks for coming along with me.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review of My God and My All

I recently finished My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi by Elizabeth Goudge. This book was a little out of my normal reading,  I love biographies but don’t read them as often as I’d like.  I also tend to lean more towards Puritans,  Separatists and Evangelicals.  Reading on a Catholic mystic isn’t in my usual reading,  but perhaps I should more.  I think I gained a great deal from reading this book,  and it’s inspired me to think outside the box a little more.

I think what struck me the most about this book is the way Goudge highlighted and focused on the love of God and the devotion to Christ that St.  Francis had,  it’s what drove and motivated him. The mystic and miraculous was talked about,  but not focused on.   The focus was how Francis loved Christ and sought his entire life to focus on Jesus. His power and influence came from this love. That message was repeated over and over and had a very positive effect on me. More than anything else,  I was encouraged how the love of a man for God could change people and change the world.

This book did have it’s mystical qualities,  stories of Francis talking to animals among other things are included,  but they are well written.  I cannot say if Francis talked to brother wolf or sister sparrow,  but the stories seem to match the character of who Francis is portrayed.  A simple,  humble man who loves God and His creation.  This love included people, creatures and nature.  His love went so far he would risk his life.

I would say this was an enjoyable book and had a great message.  The theme and tone was that of love for God and love for people. If some of the miracles are true or not true, does not take away from the thrust of the material. It’s a book about a simple man of faith living extraordinarily,  taking the mantle of poverty to be closer to his savior.  If I took anything from this book,  it’s that I need to be willing to give my all for the love of Christ.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fixing the Broken System

So I’m sure you are wonder what system I’m referring too.  The political system?  The educational system?  The church system?  I’m talking about pretty much every human system in the United States. This begins with the family and goes all the way up the line to the country and government. They are all broken for one, simple and almost obvious reason.  We have misplaced our values.

It’s not a long,  complicated reality,  It’s quite simple.  We have taken the value off of “us” and placed it solely on “me”. We don’t value others,  or the group or community or society,  we only value ourselves.  In politics,  we call this entitlement,  we want to be equal,  everyone should have the same access to the same things.  The problem is we don’t live this out. Know why most politicians are rich?  You have to be rich to run for office,  otherwise you don’t have the connections,  network,  support and resources to get out there. It takes money and fame to get elected,  and most people don’t have it. No one knows me,  I couldn’t get elected for public office.  I don’t have the money or the public influence.

Instead of voting for those who are most qualified,  we vote for the most famous who will provide me with the things I want.  Promise hope and change,  free stuff and equality and you win the popular vote. Our government is flawed because politicians have learned to play to our selfishness. They have learned to manipulate our sense of want and our feelings that we deserve to be taken care of.

The ideas of sacrifice are out the window. The good of the many over the good of a the few are gone. We want to be indulgent to the minority in rebellion while smashing the historical majority. We will tolerate any form of individual sexual expression, but not any form of religious expression. We don’t even see the issue with the lack of consistency.

We have become so focused on the self and the ability for the self to do whatever it wants,  the concept of “no” is gone.  Everything is acceptable without thoughts to the consequences. We don’t think about the implications of giving a transgender award after award,  letting anyone use any restroom, celebrating the death of authorities and rioting over the death of minorities. The breakdown of society is inevitable because of the push for rebellion against the establishment.

The reality is,  the rebellion is a march for selfishness and self serving. We don’t seem to care about our neighbor, our community,  even our country if we don’t get what we want. This slide seems to be gaining steam and momentum.

The system is broken at the source.  We don’t teach kids to be good sports and good team mates.  We teach them to be arrogant,  prideful and to complain until they get a prize.  The concept of cooperation have gone by the way side. The workplace has become full of laziness and self seeking. You can’t seem to find good customer service anymore. Everyone wants to be served,  it’s hard to find those who are willing to serve.

The times of gone when good men and women would rise up and build the community. It’s not cooperate driven individuals who combine politics with greed and the best interest of lobby and corporations. It’s a legacy build on gain.

The good men and women have become so rare that they are often marginalized and ridiculed when they try to get involved. The entire system is broken.
Want to fix the system?  Fix the family and the home. Fix the concepts of cooperation, sacrifice and commitment. Repair the education system, bring back consequences,  failure,  bad grades and losers to teach the importance of cooperation and effort. Stop the Idol worship of celebrities, especially those celebrity athletes and celebrate the team as a whole.

Fix your town by making laws and rules that make sense, that reward good behavior and punish law breakers. Do the same things in the state and federal government by electing officials who care about the country and not their own political and economic agenda.

Until we are able to do the hard things  that build unity and community, we will continue to devour one another in our quest to be what we want.  Until “me” become “our” and “I” becomes “we”,  the system will stay broken.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review of The Colson Way

I recently finished The Colson Way by Owen Strachan.  I knew some about Colson going into this book,  but I had no idea that I would enjoy this biography as much as I did.  Colson had an extraordinary life and ministry.  He did a great deal in spreading the gospel in places that need it most.

You may know about Watergate,  maybe about Prison Fellowship or Angel Tree ministries,  but Strachan does a masterful job of tying these things together into a great story. Charles Colson’s life and story is a great example to those who want to live a Christlike life.

I highly recommend this book. Looking at the life of great men of faith is a huge encouragement.  It’s good to look at the lives of those who have plowed so much ground. It’s also very well written and enjoyable to read.  Check out The Colson Way,  you won’t regret it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Myth of the Gateway Drug

You have probably heard of this incredibly dangerous gateway drug. It's the drug that young people try and suddenly they become hard drug users. Usually the dreaded drug is Marijuana, sometimes alcohol or even cigarettes. If you use, then you'll wake up one day a heroine addict. The gateway drug is blamed for kids who become addicts.

Now let me start by saying these things are bad. Teenagers drinking and smoking and using drugs is a bad thing. It's why we have age restrictions. Teenagers shouldn't do these things. They are harmful and destructive and just bad. I'm not justifying use of these substances, but the common sense approach to deal with them. Let's begin with a fictional case study.

Dave is a freshman in high school. One day after school, someone gives him a cigarette and he smokes it. He begins to smoke regularly. By his sophomore year, he is also drinking regularly. Half way through his senior year, he quits school and is a regular user of marijuana. By the age of 24, he's in prison for meth.

Looking at Dave's life, you could blame the cigarette as the gateway drug. The problem is we are only looking at Dave's usage. In my fictional story, Dave lives with his mom and little brother. Mom works hard to pay the bills and is never home. Dave is angry that his dad left and things are so hard. Dave struggles in school due to undiagnosed learning differences. He's labeled a trouble maker. As a result, Dave surrounds himself with kids like him, looking for an escape. Many of them are trying and using drugs.

The usage in Dave's life escalates, but it's not from the cigarettes or alcohol or pot. It's from the socal abandonment of at risk kids. In this day and age, dual incomes in needed, and many families still barely get by. Single parent households with low income have a difficult time. The working poor, they struggle. The kids struggle and they are often angry.

Our education system is a mess, teachers forced to focus on tests and scores. They don't have the time and resources for someone like Dave. Shop class is being cut and kids like Dave lose interest, no one is investing in him and he knows it. He wants to feel better, because he feels unwanted. He doesn't feel like school has anything to offer him, he's better off quitting.

We lose Dave, we lose thousands of kids this way, and we blame some gateway drug. Wake up, it's our fault. At risk kids are called at risk kids because they are at risk! They are headed down a dark path, and a kid who drinks at 13 does so because he feels like that is what he needs to be happy. He wants to have fun and enjoy life and he can't seem to find it anywhere else. He takes risks because the benefits out weigh the risk. What does he have to lose anyway?

You want to win this war on drugs? Invest in kids, in people and resources. Telling kids drugs are bad doesn't work. We tell the kids the drugs are bad, we tell the kids they are bad, so they try the drugs. They need something in their lives to hope for, to want and they can't find it. We have to bring it for them.

We are blowing it because we are focused on the wrong problem. Let's look past the drugs, into the heart and lives of the people to find the hurt. Then, we bring healing. Let's stop giving lectures and start bringing hope.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Should We Be Celebrating Kim Davis?

Unless you have been under a rock, you have heard about Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses because she does not support same sex marriage. There has been a ton of opinions on both sides, mostly in the form of memes on Facebook. Many support Davis, and many oppose Davis. She has become a polarizing icon, but should we rally behind her in this situation?

Let me start out by saying the issue of same sex marriage is complicated. Marriage as a religious institution is defined by God as a union of a man and a woman. It's the foundation of building a family, community and society. God defined it, God established it and it's set and foundational. Calling a union of two men or two women does not create a marriage. Where it gets tricky is that marriage has been removed from the confines of religion and faith, and is now a government run and controlled institution. It's a function of the state, and as a state function it's not limited to those of a religious faith. The state has the right to define their institutions however they wish, and the state definition of marriage has become a union of two adults who desire to be married. Apparently, the definition of a state marriage is fluid, and can (and probably will continue) to change.

This is where the issue is, we have a combination of faith and state issues. We have a separation of church and state in this country, where the state is not allowed (in theory) to interfere with the church. In the same way, no church or religion is permitted to control or influence the state or government. Faith is to be free and independent from government. The issue is marriage, where it's both part of the church and part of the state. There has never been an issue like this in the past, so there was no need to make a distinction, but it's unfortunate that the state and the church use the same term and the same documentation. The state has a civil union that united two people in the eyes of the state. The church has marriage which unites two people in the sight of God. They are similar, but not the same thing.

This is why this is such a complicated issue. Davis hold to her religious beliefs, which is good, but works for the state. It's different that me not performing a wedding for a same sex couple, because the weddings I do are with a religious context, approved by the state. A justice of the peace, however, does not have the same freedom, they are an agent of the state. Davis is also an agent of the state, and as so, does not have the ability to refuse to go along with the law of the land.

I applaud Davis for standing up for what she believes. I think the judge wanted to make an example of her, and he went way overboard with jailing her without bail. The situation all smells like a political stunt. Davis is solid for standing on her convictions, but it would have been the correct move to resign if she can't go along with the rule and laws. It's not as public, she would lose her income and her position, but it would be the right thing to do. While I don't agree with same sex marriage, I can't stand in the way of a law. I don't believe in abortion, but I can't stop a woman from having one. I can only cry out to God, plead with the mothers and talk to my representatives. We have a voice, we have options, but some things we shouldn't do.

What I fear is that Kim Davis has created a bigger division between the sides and closed down all chance to have civil dialogue. Religious Marriage and Civil Union need to be seen as separate and independent. It's an issue where the separation of church and state has become blurred. We need some clarity to prevent things like this from happening. That is my opinion, what do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let's Talk About War Room

So like so many others, I checked out the movie War Room. I saw it with a group of Christian friends and my wife on a Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed it, I would recommend it, but don't set your expectations too high. It's basically Fireproof with some Courageous, and a bit of Facing the Giants added in. I hate to say it was predictable and rehashed, but it was the same Christian movie we have been going to the theaters to see,  complete with inspiring speech at the end.

Let's face it,  as Christians we only know how to make three kinds of movies. It's gonna be about a family with a crisis of some sort, either in the marriage or parenting or both, it's going to be about Revelation, or it's going to be a Biblical story retelling.  Most of the Old Testament stories these days have been told by downplaying the actual text.  Exodus Gods and Kings and Noah were both pretty far away from the actual biblical text.  Anyway,  those seem to be the movies we have,  sometimes told by vegetables, sometimes with Charlton Heston and sometimes with Kirk Cameron or is animated.

War Room is a good movie,  I enjoyed it but it seems the writers have pretty much the same script with different characters,  the same problem. Learning to pray,  being a better husband,  the threat of infidelity,  some drama with a child or children. There is usually some conflict where someone has to make a hard choice to do the right thing. It can be predictable.

May I submit that we can do better.  While not making overt Christian movies,  I have enjoyed the theology that M Night Shyamalan has had in his movies. I have not seen all of them,  but Signs had a great message about God's Providence.  Lady in the Water had a lot to say about community. Unbreakable had a good message about having a purpose. There are solid Christian themes in the movies,  and sometimes I think we would be better off with more imagery and more metaphor and less of the same story line.

I hope I haven't stopped you from seeing War Room,  because it is worth seeing.  I just hope that Christian movies can make some progress towards more variety and depth.  I would like to see a Christian studio put some serious time and money into a Frank Peretti book, like This Present Darkness, and do it well and do it right. Just something to throw out there,  I would definately go see that one.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Can the Forgiven Be Unforgiving?

I recently was told that I did something that was unforgivable. For the record, I think I did the right thing, and I would do it again, but it upset someone who claims to be a follower of Christ. This leads me to a quandary, can Christians be unforgiving?

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
 (Matthew 6:14-15 [ESV])

That seems pretty cut and dry doesn't it? And then there is this parable from Jesus:
 Then Peter came up and said to him, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?  Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, Pay what you owe.  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you.  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?      And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. 
(Matthew 18:21-35 [ESV])

So what happens when a Christian says that something is unforgiving or unforgivable? The scripture makes it clear that if we do not forgive, we are not forgiven. Does this mean that a Christian can lose our salvation? I think we would be making a mistake if we go that far, because we know from Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. When we are saved, we are saved from the eternal consequences of sin. We are saved from hell. To what does it mean that you will not be forgiven if you don't forgive?

There are a couple of possible interpretations. It could mean that as a Christian, you will not be unforgiving. The work of the Holy Spirit in your life will always lead you to forgiveness. While this is a great idea, I find it hard to reconcile the number of verses that command us to forgive if forgiveness comes automatically. I know in my life, I sure wish forgiveness came automatically.

Of  course, those who believe our salvation is dependent upon our keeping of the commandments will stay that forgiveness will cause us to lose our salvation. I reject this idea, I believe we are kept by the power of Christ and not from our own actions. This verse becomes difficult in the context of scripture, that we are forgiven and there is no condemnation. It would be easy to just assume those who hold forgiveness are not saved, but I know that all of us struggle to forgive at some times. I find that I struggle often to forgive a few individuals who have caused me a great deal of pain. So what are we to do with this passage?

I think often we forget that there are consequences for sin beyond eternal. Yes, sin brings death and that death is eternal in hell.  When Christ died, he carried the consequences of death by taking the wrath of God upon Himself. The sins of the elect are atoned for, but there is more to sin than just the eternal consequences. There is also the consequence of the broken relationship with God on earth. When we hold forgiveness, we are separated from the Father, in a spiritual sort of prison, like the servant in the parable.

The earthly consequences of sin causes our relationships to be strained. God can become silent in our lives, and darkness, depression and pain are the natural result. This isn't hell, but it's as close as a believer will come. This isn't outer darkness with the wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it's definitely a prison. When we hold onto unforgiveness, we break the bond with the Father as our sin breaks the relationship and kills us inside. A Christian can be unforgiving, but the abundant life of Christ is lost. We must ensure that each day we do what we need to do to be forgiving.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ashley Madison, Our Outrage and Blindness

This week we all heard about a hacker group that released the names of the users of an Internet service called Ashley Madison,  which is set up to help people have an extramarital affair.  There has been shock and horror as names of Christians have been released.  Maybe we need to stop and take a look at what has brought us here and maybe the shock will become grief and hopefully repentance.

The group that claims responsibility said they wanted the site shut down. Apparently they think it's a bad idea for people to have an affair. The problem is they need to be working on shutting down the porn industry,  that would definately be David and Goliath.  The porn industry in this country is huge,  in size,  influence and income. The amount of money brought in by pornography is staggering and we may never fully know the extent. It's said that 50 to 75% of men have a pornography addiction and the rate is quickly rising among women. 1 in 2 Christian men is addicted to porn,  that includes Pastors,  Elders and Deacons. The problem is so much bigger than Ashley Madison.

Combine that with the soft porn that is all over media, and you have hyper-sexualization. My boys can't even walk to the video game store in the mall without seeing the Victoria Secret pictures in the mall. Teenage girls are wearing tiny bikinis that were once only worn in raunchy college movies. The problem is out of control and way bigger than Ashley Madison.

Satan has two huge weapons,  lust and greed and they are together in this country to create a mine field. Marriage as it stands today is bombarded with attacks. I have seen numbers that 50% of marriages report some sort of infidelity.  That is report,  who knows how high the actual numbers are.  Combine that with the porn addiction of many men and women,  the promiscuity of our population and the greed of Internet porn industries,  and Ashley Madison is born,  and of course it's successful. It's the next stage in our depravity. People want to have the dangerous and erotic and now there is a business to help you do it. The hackers may have released the names of the users,  but the company won't go away. How do I know? I see people arrested for prostitution in my local paper,  but there are still prostitutes in my town. I see people arrested for drugs and drinking and bad behavior, and they continue to do those things.

What do we do in response to finding Christians and Christian leaders on Ashley Madison? We realize the problem is much closer than we want to admit. We would like to say the issue is in Vegas and New Orleans and San Francisco. It's not,  it exists in the small towns,  in the Heartland,  in the Bible Belt,  in the church.  It exists in your home,  soft porn is finding it's way in through the TV,  magazines, Internet and all over sources of media. We must resist it,  pray against it and hold it at bay with all we can muster,  but don't be deceived. We cannot assume that this reality won't enter our homes,  our lives.  The individual who says they will never have an affair is often the first to fall when temptation comes along,  and it will come. Let's be aware,  let's be vigalent and let's pray for one another. Lust and greed are ever where,  and the temptation is great. We need God!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Believe a Review of Ralf Crawford's book.

I was intrigued by the title. Believe: Proof That God Is Real. The title and the book claims to be able to prove there is a God. I believe in God, but everyone wants some proof,  right?  So I read it.

It wasn't a bad read, and there were some good points made. The book is apologetic work,  and it makes good and rational arguments,  but unfortunately they cannot be considered proof. There are many things that validate the claims of scripture,  but nothing that can be tested in a lab and shown to be proof.

Science in the only way to have proof.  Science is the study of the natural world. God,  by definition,  is supernatural,  outside of the natural world,  so science cannot prove,  disprove or even test for God or anything about God. As Phil Vischer states in his video series "Do You Know What's In The Bible",  using science to test for God or miracles is the wrong tool.  It's like trying to tell time with a thermometer. Science can't tell us about things outside of the natural world. Since we can't study God with science,  we can't have proof.

The nail in the coffin I'm afraid came at the end of the book. The archeological claims of Ron Wyatt are suspicious at best.  He claims to have discovered,  among other things,  the Arc of the Covenant,  but has not produced any evidence outside of his own story. This is the last piece of questionable "evidence"  along with crying statues,  appearances of Mary,  and the Shroud of Turin.  All interesting points to consider,  but far from proof.

This is a fun read,  give it a try to learn a few things,  but I don't recommend buying a stack and giving it to all your atheist friends.  It's not going to convert them,  it will give them more ammunition about unsubstantiated claims. Some of the material is evidence,  but the book is far from "proof".

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can We Trust Ourselves

One of the most cumbersome obstacles in the search for truth is overcoming our own opinion. If there is a truth, if there is a standard that it is completely independent from us and what we think or know or like about it makes no difference on it's existence. If it's true, it doesn't matter if we agree or like it or want it to be. The main issue is our own perception. We have complete trust in our own perception and senses, believing what we can see or hear, touch or taste. We never doubt our own senses of reality, even though there is no way to substantiate if our senses are truly accurate. We have no standard to base our perception of reality, so what if your perception of reality and my perception are different. Who is right, which perception is correct? Does that mean there is no reality, or is it simply the consensus of the majority?

Even more dangerous is perhaps we think we agree on what is real, but our thinking, perceiving and experiencing are totally opposite? There is no way to judge, there is no proof that your experiences have any base in reality or truth. This problem is elevated by the reality of social and ethical relativism. How can we trust personal perception without any evidence that it can be trusted?

Taking the example of a crime scene with eye witnesses. Often the police try to get as many witnesses as they can. Each one seeing from a different perspective, it takes many eyes to get a full picture. Society can be the same way, so how can a society trust a system that creates relativism with so many opinions, when it takes multiple perspective for just one truth? Doesn't it seem that the lack of credibility in all the multiple perspectives points to the unreliable nature of the observer? After all, if you and I witness the same event but have different stories, clearly someone is wrong. If I say the car is blue and you say the car is red, I can be wrong, you can be wrong or we both can be wrong. We cannot both be right, so someone's perspective is skewed.

Knowing that experiences and perceptions cannot be trusted, how do we arrive at fact and truth? If the social decay had eliminated the possibility of the multiplicity of witnesses, we are left with a couple of options. We can blindly choose the one which we like the best, which is the foundation of ethical relativism. We can wait until a power or force comes and commands us and compels us towards a certain belief system. That is much of the strategy of Socialism and the tactic of some in radical Islam. We can simply change our belief system based on the situation, adopting a situational code of ethics. Lastly, we can find something that stands as a pillar and a foundation. This has been the function of moral code, laws, ethics and religion. As these things fall apart around us, can truth be found? In which direction do we look, who becomes the keepers of truth, and who's perceptions do we trust as wise? Is there a sage or guru that can be trusted?

The reality of this day and age is so many try to be experts, but with so many voices shouting so many things from so many direction, there is no way to make any of it out. It becomes a tirade of noise and static, everyone screaming from their own direction, quoting statistics and research, contradicting one another, attempting oneupmanship, all in order to get their version of the truth heard. It's no wonder that social and ethical truth has fallen away, because in the marketplace, it cannot be found.

Even in the abandoned places we once considered sacred, those remaining behind cannot agree. The opinions in theoretical, philosophical and religious debate has turned from a dialogue to an assault. Many in the theological and philosophical have turned to the postmodern deconstructionist ideas in order to stay relevant to survive. Others have held on to the foundational truth they have found in the Bible, while others have held to tradition, not changing and hoping they can ride the storm. Many have tried a combination of these approaches, simply to find themselves so confused and lost they quickly fade away into the noise and chaos of the argument.

 If we can't trust our experience and our senses, and if we can't trust the thousand voices, what can we trust, where should be look for a foundation? What is the key, where is the map on the search for reliability, for foundation, for truth? When we reach the end of desconstruction and get to the basics of everything, what is left, what is the core and what is the center? Is there something we cannot toss away or get rid of? What is the one thing that unites and has in common with all mankind? I would argue that one things is the bond that holds people together. Call is love or devotion, commitment or community, it's that thing that keep us talking and sharing. It makes us care enough to find a code of conduct. If this is the core component, where does it come from? Why does it exist and what can it teach us? What are the implications that we are not solitary by nature? Does it lend itself to the connection to something greater than ourselves? If we take the connecting piece of this draw for unity and community, combine it with the ever present search for truth and exploration and add in man's creativity and desire to build and create, can we find a road map? Can we find an undeniable path to find truth and reality, or are we left with nothing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Class of 95 Revisited, Reflections from 20 Years.

It's been a week of reflecting on my 20th class reunion.  It was a surreal experience.  I hadn't been back to my home town since 2002. We stopped by briefly before moving to Phoenix,  and I haven't been back.  I saw the house I grew up in,  the Community College I attended,  my first apartment.  I saw how my home church has grown and expanded,  I saw the tree where my parent's ashes were sprinkled. I saw a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time.

The day of the reunion started with a tour of the old high school.  High school was an improvement in my life.  Middle school was horrible,  wasn't it for everyone?  I matured slowly,  I was awkward even into high school.  I never dated,  I was more shy.  High school is a great social experiment where everyone tries to figure out who they are,  just to graduate and become someone else. I know I became someone else.

Here I am,  20 years removed from High School with people I went to school with.  It was amazing to see them all,  everyone had done great things. We grew up,  figured out how to treat each other,  many of us had kids and have tried to teach them how to treat each other.  We have had good times and bad times and figured a few things out. I think more than anything we all learned the important of relationships and community.  High school is full of small little groups of people who socialize exclusively because the world is small to high schoolers.  My world was FCA.  I found my place in FCA,  as the non-athletic guy I was passionate about my faith,  still am.  I was all about making FCA awesome,  and I had a great time with it. My world was small,  my community was small. As I have aged,  my world has gotten bigger and my communities have become much more.

The class of Green River High School 1995 is scattered across the United States. Most of us stuck closer to the west,  but we are scattered.  I am thankful for social media that we can still connect. The community of the class of 95 definately means more to me now than ever before.  It's a group that understands me more than many because of the shared experiences. The football games,  the classes,  the teachers and the building. We have a shared past,  a time of life that shaped us so much and we will always have that connection.  I have more grieved that I have lost touch with so many,  friends that were good friends who I don't even know how to contact. Hopefully some day our paths will cross.

Thanks class of 95 for a great reunion.  If you asked me 20 years ago if I would have had such a great time,  I would have been more skeptical.  I was unsure back then,  I didn't really know who I was or what I was doing.  I still don't know what I'm doing,  but I know who I am. Looking back at who I was has helped me understand that even more.  I am glad I got to see you all,  my prayer is that God continues to keep our community together.  Here's to the next 20.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What Makes A Woman?

I don't generally enjoy posting about social issues,  and seldom back to back. I wrote about Planned Parenthood,  but I want to discuss one aspect of the Brucelyn Jenner story. Is Bruce,  now Caitlyn Jenner really a woman?

For those of you who say "yes,  we should accept Kaitlyn Jenner as a woman" make me a little sad. Especially for those of you who are women to think that the only difference between a man and a woman is some feeling and genitalia. From a Christian standpoint,  God makes them male and female,  but from a more general standpoint,  let's ask WHAT makes a person male or female?  Just some equipment,  or is there something more?

Gender equality people want to tell you there is no difference between men and women.  Those people clearly have never studied anatomy differences above the waste. I'm talking the brain. The male brain and the female brain are wired differently. Men have 50% less nerve connections in their corpus callosum,  the part that connects the right and left halves of the brain.  Women can process between both halves much faster.  Woman access logic and emotion at the same time,  men cannot.  Men are either logical or emotional,  we can't do both,  it's a natural,  physiological condition hard wired into humans.  You can disagree,  but the data is there,  we can see it,  pull out a couple of brains and there it is.

The DNA is different,  the brain is different,  women are made up differently than men.  So,  Bruce can say he feels more like a woman but how does he know?  No man understands what it's like to be a woman, why are women not outraged by this statement.  If I said "I think I feel more like I should be African American"  and started to get my pigment darkened,  I am not sure I would be embraced by the black community,  I haven't experienced what they experienced,  I don't have the knowledge,  and my brain and the brain of a black man are virtually the same. He or I hold no structural differences.  A man says he feels like a woman,  yet has differences in his neurology (aside from the hormonal differences)  says he feels like a woman and we are just like "ya,  ok,  sure that's legit".

No,  it's not legit. He can't be a woman unless they do some brain surgery. Changing some genetics and giving you some hormone pills don't cut it.  There is more to being man or woman than some equipment and some hormones. Brucelyn Jenner is not a woman,  at best he is part woman,  part man. His brain is still a man's brain,  regardless to how he thinks he feels. He doesn't even know what it feels like to be a woman,  he is operating on what he thinks it feels like to be a woman. In reality,  he feels like an effeminate man.

Here is what I would say to Brucelyn,  not that he reads my blog. It's ok to feel like a more effeminate man.  It's ok to be a man who likes to. . .  do the things you think make you a woman, but your brain and your DNA make you male. You can't change that. You look like a woman,  you sound like a woman,  you probably smell like a woman but you have th brain of a man,  and you will always have the brain of a man.  Embrace who you are,  not who you feel like you should be,  because you don't and can't feel like a woman. You don't have the proper wiring upstairs.

Be true to who you are,  even if you don't feel like you are who you are,  because some things can't be changed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Planned Parenthood, Enough is Enough

To say I dislike abortion is a major understatement.  I believe in my heart that the practice of contraception through abortion is beyond unjustifiable. Let me start by saying I am not interested in the "what about rape and incest"  argument because those account for less than 1% of all abortions.  I don't want to discuss the "what if the mother's life is in danger"  because that has always been legal as a medical emergency.  I'm talking about the 99% of abortions in which a man and woman have unprotected (or failed protected)  consensual sex that results in pregnancy. That pregnancy is unwanted and the result is the destruction of the unborn child.

Sex,  as an action has ramifications.  They are not negative or positive, just natural outcomes.  If I throw a rock up in the air,  it comes down. Throwing stones has positive and negative outcomes.  If I throw it just right,  I can skip is across a lake,  play a game of stick ball or even kill a giant threatening to destroy my people.  I can also break a window,  hurt someone or myself if I throw it straight up. Sex is the same way,  my wife and I have three wonderful and beautiful children. We wanted each of them and feel blessed to have them. Some people engage in sex and get pregnant with a child they didn't particularly plan for. It's a reality of the activity of sex,  it makes babies. We have known this for all of human history,  the entire animal kingdom knows this,  sex makes babies.  To have sex,  make a baby and then destroy the baby is a barbaric and inhumane action that doesn't belong in a civilized society. It's unjustifiable killing of a child.

Let's face it,  birth control in our day and age works pretty good.  Condoms come with built in spermicide and are 99% effective. If you get pregnant on accident,  it was because you were irresponsible. That might seem harsh,  but you got caught in the moment without having protection and you did it anyway. Things fail,  but they fail rarely,  most of the time it's because the proper precautions weren't taken. What we have done is allowed people to be irresponsible and destroy the new life,  and let's be clear,  it's alive. It's living cells,  living tissue, and by the time a woman knows she is pregnant,  it has it's own heartbeat. It's a living being,  a life that deserve an opportunity to live it's life.

We have found out that planned Parenthood is taking the aborted babies and selling the body parts. There is video of a national leader of the organization talking about what parts are often sold and how they can make sure when they do the procedure,  they can keep the desired parts intact. They have become a business enterprise to farm human organs and body parts,  at tax payers expense. This is butchery of a human being to sell off,  and it's unconscionable. They have duped the American people,  using terms like "it's a woman's right to choose" and having no concern for the woman or the baby.  Their concern is clearly the financial gain that comes from the harvesting of human tissue with the blessing of the American people and the Government.

Christians have protested,  picketed,  campaigned and above all prayed.  We need to continue to do these things,  but we must convince others that abortion is barbaric murder. We must convince our Senators,  our congressmen,  our leaders and of course our neighbors.  We are a government of the people and by the people. We as Americans must convince people that abortion does not belong in a civilized society. We have the means to prevent pregnancy,  if pregnancy happens that we have individuals who would love to adopt and raise a baby. As a foster parent,  I know there are people who wish to bring in children to their homes and care for them. Children and precious,  and the idea of killing them,  chopping them up and selling their parts should bother you. We must find a way to change the heart and mind of America to make this heinous activity a thing of the past.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Obligatory Gay Marriage Post

So homosexuals can now legally marry in all 50 states.  It looks like unicorns that only eat skittles have puked all over social media.  There are more rainbows than a 10 year olds watercolor paintings.  Everyone has weighed in and sides are chosen and words exchanged.  So here is my view on the whole thing, like anyone really needs one more opinion.

In a democracy, with an open government that is ruled by the people, our society does and needs to reflect the people of the country.  Marriage is a rule of law in a government system and therefore needs to be equal.  If that means giving homosexuals the right to marry, then the government should afford that right to homosexuals.  The ability to destroy the institution of arraignment should be available to all people.  It shouldn't be just a heterosexual issue, let's all trash marriage.

Now you may think I am saying sarcastically, but I'm serious.  We have destroyed marriage long before the homosexuals decided they wanted a piece of the action.  At it's foundation, marriage was about a man and a woman, two incomplete people coming together making a more complete whole.  We once understood that men and women were different.  They have different strengths, different weaknesses.  Long before this idea of gender neutral, we understood that God made them male and female, instead of God making them men and surgery and hormone replacement making them female.  We got it, and we put men and women together to form the basic core unit of the family.  That combination, two becoming one flesh usually resulted in children.  Yes, some couldn't have children, but most could.  That unit was the family and it was the core of community.  The family unit then helped to build the community, they contributed and invested and sacrificed.  The community came together to build a society which built a nation.  We were much less focused on the good of the one, more on the good of the whole.

Then we decided one day that we are all about us.  We are about what is good for me.  What is going to make me happy.  We decided that if community doesn't make me happy, I find a new one, or just leave it all together.  If marriage doesn't make me happy, I just get a divorce and find someone else.  Now, I can choose if I like men or women or both, or I can switch.  It's all about what makes me happy.  I have kids because they make me happy, and if I begin to have a kid and that isn't what I want, I can abort it.  We just change our minds based on what we want.

The issue isn't choice or freedom or equal rights.  The point is that we are so selfish that we have begun to worship ourselves, and Romans 1 tells us that when we do that, God gives us over to our depravity.  We will then do whatever we think will make us happy.  News flash, homosexuals won't be happy with this, there will be something else later.  Maybe polygamy or the push for the removal of age limits so I can marry a 14 year old, or whatever.  The self will never be happy, there always must be something else.

Is homosexuality wrong?  Bible says it's just as wrong as any sex outside marriage, even if the homosexuals are married.  Why?  Telling two guys they are married doesn't mean God says they are married, it means the state says they are married.  In the Bible, God made them male, God made them female and for this reason and man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.  God makes this happen, not the word marriage, not the state, not the Supreme Court.

It's wrong, but so is abortion, sex outside of marriage, most divorces are wrong, and a list of other things.  It doesn't change anything and it really doesn't matter.  Pride and anger and lust and greed are wrong and we are all full of those things.  I'm wrong every day and so are you.  That's not the problem.  The problem is that we are saying it's not wrong, it's ok and we are told not to say it's wrong.  The truth is we need Jesus to save us from our sin.  From our greed and lust and pride and murder and perversion.  Yes, I said perversion.  We all need Jesus, me and you and the two guys who got married today.

The ground is equal at the cross.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Martha, Martha. The Great Anxiety

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:27

Do you ever struggle with fear? We are all afraid of something,  for example I am not a fan of birds. I don'think like things flying around my head,  it just creeps me out. There is a difference however,  between things that creep you out and genuine fear.  Many struggle with anxiety and fear on a daily basis. I have some anxiety issues,  but mine are very minor compared to many. We live in a world that is filled with much fear. I think the high pace of our society,  combined with constant pressure to succeed,  and the bombardment of information constantly has made us a stressed out people. Even today,  things at work didn't go exactly as planned,  and I may possibly face some consequences. That makes me nervous.

Sometimes it's simple things that cause us to worry. Every woman I have ever known worries about how the house looks when company is coming over. Remember Martha? She was stressed that she had so much to do and her sister Mary wasn't helping out.  Jesus told her "you are concerned with a great many things".  Not exactly what she wanted to hear I imagine,  but exactly what she needed. I know that often I am concerned with a great many things that don't have eternal significance. I worry about work and money and family and health and a long list of issues I have little to no control over. Do you relate?

The scripture is full of words to tell us not to worry,  to be brave and courageous.  2 Timothy 1:7 says we have not been given a spirit of fear.  In Matthew 6, Jesus asks if we can add a moment to our lives by worry,  which is probably the opposite of what we are actually doing. Jesus knew the stress would kill us,  and we are killing ourselves,  for what? I know I don'don't want to be afraid anymore.  I don't want to live in fear,  I don't want to suffer from anxiety.  I am going to continue to put my faith in the one who holds it all in His hands. I hope you find his peace today.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Real American Idol

Sometimes I wonder if we have all gone crazy. Take a look at the world today,  and it seems we have our priorities backwards. Slavery and the sex trafficking of minors is at an all time high,  but we are worried about Brucelyn Jenner. Millions of babies are murdered every day in abortion clinics,  but we are more concerned with same gender marriage.  Yes,  these are all issues and each one represents the depravity and the lostness of our society, but as Christians we need to make it a priority to protect those who cannot protect themselves.   Children,  infants and the unborn should be our priority. Heaven should be filled with our cries and pleas against these atrocities.

These problems and many more plague us as a society.  We have abandoned the values that once kept marriages,  families,  communities and churches strong. Instead we have given our hearts to the American idol,  not the TV show,  but the idol of happiness.  It'S the American dream right,  the pursuit of happiness?  The desire to be happy has given to a feeling of happiness. We worship this feeling so much that we have become narcissistic without even noticing. Abortion,  divorce, same sex marriage,  transgender issues, even sexual abuse comes down to our attempts to try to fill our lives with things that make us happy. The problem is that we are not happy when we get what we want. We then turn our attention to the next thing that we think will make us happy,  and the depravity spiral downwards.

The woman or man believes if they are in a relationship,  they will be happy. Once in the relationship,  they feel if they get married,  they will be happy.  In the marriage,  they believe if their spouse will just do the thing they want them to do,  they will be happy. The spouse doesn'doesn't do the things they want them to do,  and even if they do,  they still aren't satisfied. In the course,  they find someone else who they think will make them happy. They get a divorce and remarry,  thinking then they will be happy.

Somehow we have begun to think that we have the right to be happy. That we deserve to be happy That somehow we have this great value and we are owed happiness. We have a sense of entitlement that has come from worshipping the American Dream. Our pursuit of happiness has given way to the worship of happiness.
So what is the solution? I think there are several issues that we need to come to terms with.  First is the issue that suffering is bad and we should never suffer. Do you know people who have never suffered? How would you describe those people? The people I know who have never suffered are usually selfish,  self focused and often whiney. They are spoiled and haven'the learned the first thing about livingliving in community with others. We sometime ask "why do bad things happen to good people"  but people who are good people are good because they were shaped and tempered through adversity. Next,  we need to realize how emotionally driven we are as a people. Out movies,  TV,  music,  books,  all these forms of entertainment are designed to impact our emotions. We let our emotions control our thinking,  our actions and our behaviors.

It can be phrased a thousand different ways, the bottom line is we need to mature. I am hesitant to use the phrase "grow up"  but in many ways that is what is comes down too. We no longer live in a society where community is the goal. We want what we want,  when and how we want it. We do it in marriage,  in family,  community and in the church. How many churches have fights over worship styles and music? How many churches fight over personalities,  worry about "stepping on toes" and split over non-essential doctrine? How many complain about the sermon length,  the music volume and how many pastors have lost their jobs to keep people happy?

This is an epidemic,  we have become self-self-absorbed and narcissistic to the point we will walk away from church,  seek a divorce,  redefine marriage to make it fit whatever we think will make us happy,  change our gender and murder our unborn children. None of these things seem to be making us happy as a nation,  maybe it's time to suck it up and care more about our neighbors,  seek to build real community and help one another again. Maybe then we will find something better than being happy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Longing For Eternity

As a Christian,  I think there is a natural longing for heaven and for eternity with Christ.  This life seems so long,  especially during times of pain. I remember after my abdominal surgery,  laying in a hospital bed feeling miserable, praying that Jesus would return or just take me home to be with Him.   Even the Apostle Paul said that to die is gain. Eternity with Christ is so much better than anything.

With a glorious afterlife awaiting us,  we have to stop and ask the question about suicide.  If we kill ourselves,  will we be in heaven?  Some churches teach that suicide will cause a soul to go to hell.  I don't agree,  if you are in Christ,  there is no condemnation,  your sins are forgiven,  past present and future. A Christian who takes their own life will enter paradise with Jesus.

Is it a temptation?  I think the Apostle Paul thought so. I think Paul struggled with longing to be with Christ as he suffered through prison,  beatings,  stoning,  ship wrecks and trials of all kinds.   What kept him going forward was those he loved and served.   The churches,  the other disciples and missionaries,  those young in Christ.

We stay on earth after salvation because Christ has good works for us to do. We are the Incarnational representation of Christ as the church.   We are the body of Christ, we are here to do the work of Jesus. If we leave,  there is no one to represent Christ on earth,  to do the good works that He has prepared for us. If we abandon this world,  the darkness will be out of control.  You think it's bad now,  imagine the worst.  It would be reality.

I long for heaven,  I long to be with Jesus. I'm ready for His return,  but I'm not ready to leave my children and my family.   I want them to be with me,  and I want you to be with me. If Jesus comes for if I go,  I will be in heaven for eternity.  The other option is eternity in hell,  seperated from God by sin.   A place for eternal punishment.  Trust Christ,  place your life in Him and look forward to an eternity with Him.

Fellow believer,  hang in there today. When suffering comes and you feel like Paul when he said it would be better to be absent form the body and present with the Lord. Paul remained for the work set before him,  and he finished the race. Let's run hard until we are glorified in Christ Jesus.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let's Judge Judging

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
I Corinthians 5:12 ESV

I hear all the time people saying "don't judge".   There is a popular quote that says "don't judge people because they sin different from you".   I want to look at what Paul has to say about that in 1 Corinthians 5.  Paul tells us not to associate with the sexuality immoral,  and he clarifies.   He said "I didn't mean those outside the church who are sinners,  if you couldn't associate with sinners outside the church,  you'd have to leave the world.   It's people in the church that you need to avoid if they live in a sinful mannor".  (Dan's parahrase).

We need to support one another,  and we need to call out one another when we see an issue.   I am so thankful for those in my life who have been willing to call me out for sin. They have been life savers in turning me away from a path of destruction.

We have found ourselves in the age of tolerance,  where whatever you feel is ok. It's not abnormal for couples to live together and be sexuality active before marriage.  It may be common,  but that doesn't make it ok. Sexual activity outside of marriage is not ok in the church.   Paul says we don't need to condemn those outside the church,  but inside the church.  Drinking,  drug use, criminal behavior of those inside the church,  we need to be aware and save our brothers and sisters from themselves.

I hear you asking already,  what about homosexuality marriage.   It's a hot button issue and something we need to deal with. Homosexuality is a sin,  just like hetrosexuality when engaged outside of marriage. Jesus said that marriage in a man and woman coming together,  being one flesh.  A same sex couple cannot be married,  even if they have a state signed document that says they are married. You can call a civil union a marriage,  just like you can call a cardboard box your mansion.   It's still a cardboard box. In God's view, it's not a marriage,  regardless of what the state says.

Inside the church,  sexual immorality needs to be addressed.   Inside the church,  greed and idolatry and selfish pride need to be addressed.  Sin needs to be called sin,  and not in a general way from the pulpit,  but from a brother or sister in love.  It's time that we in the church begin to look out for each other.   Sin brings to death,  and we can do so much good by pulling someone aside and speaking truth in love.

The key to the entire thing is love. We don't condemn people,  we don't tell them they are worthless. We don't tell people with signs and with protest.  We need to stop worrying so much about what is going on in the world,  and begin to focus on what is going on with the church.

We judge those in the church because we love them.  It's not different that telling a child that they are doing something wrong,  because we don't want them hurt.  We love people and we want them to have real life.  Those who are part of a lifestyle of sin won't see it as love. If you tell a practicing homosexuality that they are involved in a sinful lifestyle,  they probably won't see it as love.  If you tell a young couple who is living together that they are in sin,  they may not respond well. If someone in your church has an addiction to drugs,  alcohol or gambling and you take them aside and tell them they are in sin,  they probably won't feel the love.   We must do it from love and judge based on God's Word.

For those who are reading this who call themselves a Christian who are engaged in a sinful lifestyle,  you may be less than happy with me. It's ok,  I can handle you being mad at me,  but I don't want to live my life ignoring the truth of God's word.   His word doesn't change or give way because of society or new definitions or Supreme Court rulings. Let's take the word seriously,  call sin what it is and address in love those who are trapped.

Thanks for taking some time with me today.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Self on the Shelf

Have you ever felt like you've been put on the shelf? Like something that was needed and used,  but now you are just sitting,  waiting to be used again. This sometimes happens to those who serve God.  You may have been there,  you may be there.

The book of Daniel tells us about Daniel being put on the shelf.   Don't remember than part?  It's not in the text,  it's actually in the spaces.   Daniel interpreted a dream for King Nebuchadnessar,  and he subsequently went mad for 7 years.   We turn the page to King Belshazzar having the party. Well,  it may just be the next chapter,  but we missed 3 or 4 kings in the passage.  Nebuchadnessar is his "father" in the text,  but it's like the Jews calling Abraham their father.   He was more likely his Great Grandfather,  and Belshazzar's father,  who was actually the king,  was out at war,  leaving his son in charge,  a sort of temporary stand in King.   This was a big chunk of time between assignments for Daniel. During the time where there is no text and just space,  what is Daniel doing?   We have no idea,  it doesn't say.  

We know he is remembered for what he has done,  and I assume he was faithful in his job,  since he is still around.   There is no assignment given to Daniel that was written in the book that bears his name. It seems that Daniel was on the shelf. So what do we do during these times? It would be nice to have some instruction,  but during these times,  there aren't notes given.  

Like the time between Jesus at age 12 and age 30.  Paul during the time between his conversion and his missionary travels. What was John doing those years on Patmos when he wasn't writing Revelation?  We don't know.

I'm in a shelf time myself.  I haven't been at my last church for about 3 years. In my down time,  I'm trying to write,  obviously, doesn't always go as smoothly as I'd like.   I have found myself with a pretty decent job with the opportunity to share,  disciple and teach.  I am surrounded by a good mix of believers and non-believers and have a good relationship with them all. I long to be back in vocational ministry,  even part time or volunteer ministry.   I do what I can,  but I work rotating 12 hour shifts that go from nights to days every month.   It can't be at anything on a weekly basis,  so I can't teach a class or a Bible study every week.   I can set it up that I can meet after work,  but that only works until I switch from days to nights or vice versa.  With this job,  which was a gift from God,  I am effectively on the shelf.

I'm praying that I will be useful again some day in ministry.   I pray that I can go back into the calling that I love so much.   In the mean time,  I'll just stay on this shelf,  waiting for the time that The Father reaches for me and it's my time to serve Him in vocational ministry. Blessings,  thanks for spending some time with me today.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Does God Want You to Be Cold?

In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus addressed the church of Laodicea, and it's not a good report.   Jesus tells them that He wishes they were either hot or cold,  but they are lukewarm.   I don't want to address the lukewarm part,  I think Francis Chan handled that beautifully,  you can find his comments on YouTube.   Instead I want to address the hot/cold thing.

The general interpretation is that Jesus wants the church to be either hot,  on fire for Him,  or cold,  not wanting anything to do with Him.  I don't think this is a position that we have fully thought through. Does God really want us to be indifferent towards Him?

I read through quite a few commentaries and studies which agreed with this view,  but it didn't make sense to me that Jesus would wish for His church to out right reject Him.   I understand that being lukewarm is bad,  they will be spewed from His mouth,  but Jesus encourages them to be cold?   I think there is something missing.

What I have found is what happens often.   We are looking at this verse from a strictly textual interpretation and superimposed our meaning on it.   There are geographical implications to consider.  Where is Laodicea,  what is happening around it,  why would Jesus use these terms?   What is the deal with being hot or cold?

I found some help online,  I came across this from March 5 2013 Sparking Gem From the Greek by Rick Renner:

The city of Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in a seismic area, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed to be therapeutic and effective in improving one's health.

Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Just as people journeyed to Hierapolis to bathe in the hot springs for health purposes, people would travel great distances to vacation in Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.

Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. Therefore, the people of Laodicea had to leave their luxurious homes and travel to Colosse if they wanted to enjoy fresh, cool water. On the other hand, those who desired to soak in the hot springs had to travel six miles to Hierapolis.

Once in an attempt to bring the hot water from Hierapolis to Laodicea, a huge construction project was commenced. The goal of those who initiated the project was to build pipes that would channel the hot water six miles from Hierapolis to the city of Laodicea. The pipes effectively delivered the water - a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it!

It's so awesome how the Bible uses real places to give illustrations.   The people of Laodicea would understand this analogy because they lived right in the middle of it.   They understood how the hot water relaxed people and the cold water refreshed people and the lukewarm water repulsed people.  

Jesus wants you to serve Him and to be relaxing or refreshing,  notnot revolting. Have you ever met a self-righteous and arrogant Christian? Someone who wears you out and brings you down?   Don't be that guy,  be refreshing or relaxing,  soothe and encourage people.   Hot is useful,  cold is useful,  lukewarm is just disgusting.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why Do I Want to Plant a Church?

I got a message from an old friend the other day who is a passionate leader and church planter.   He saw a post of mine about wanting to plant a church and wrote to encourage me. He also wrote to challenge me,  to check myself.   As a facilitator of church planting,  he saw lots of guys who planted out of a bad motive. Often guys who have been hurt in a church go and plant a church with an attitude of "I can do it better"  and he wanted to ensure I wasn't motivated by bitterness.   He knows that I have had some difficult times in the past in local church work,  and it was a fair challenge he gave me. I wanted to check my heart and part of the reason I have been out of ministry for a few years without jumping in and starting a new ministry is to check my heart and heal from some hurts.

It's been a few years,  and my heart continues to yearn to plant a church.   This desire started long before I knew anything about church planting.   In high school I was part of a small group of about 5 students who worked with a student teacher to start an FCA Huddle at our school.   As I went on to Junior College,  I worked with our Director of Missions to start a Baptist Student Union or BSU.   (They have some some name changes,  BSU in some places,  Baptist Collegiate Ministries or BCM in some places,  and Christian Challenge in other places).   When I got to the University,  I worked with our local BSU,  but got to know my first church planter.

When in Arizona,  I met a number of church planters and was introduced more to the house church model and some material by Charles Brock on house church planting. It was a great time of learning and I had the opportunity to help out with some house church plants. I started one of the first junior college BSUs in the state,  and I hoped to plant a church on that college campus,  but God had other plans.

While in Seminary,  a good friend and I started a coffee house church service,  it met on Saturday nights at first and later Sunday Nights.   It wasn't a church plant, it was a "church service plant"  I suppose.  We were able to reach new and different people,  and do some fun and exciting things in that atmosphere. I became a staff member at a very young church,  and it was exciting to be in the early stages.  

Once I got to Iowa,  I served again in a young church and saw the need and desire to plant churches grow.   I was blessed to go to the Exponental Conference in 07, and it added fuel to the fire of my desire to church plant.

God has put in me a desire to see new things,  new ideas and fresh starts.  A church plant is a dream I've had for many years,  and I get excited every time I think about the idea. It hasn't been the right time,  but it seems that doors are opening and I may have an opportunity.   I am not sure what the shape will be,  how it will work. It may be a church plant,  it may be a service,  God may lead me to start a ministry instead of a church. I would love if God called me to work with Church planters,  I don't know what is in the future. I am excited about the future and what God is going to call me to do.

I have shared some of my vision for what my church plant would look like, using house church models and some other ideas I've had.  I hope to share more in the future,  and I invite your input and ideas.   Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.